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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation | [Blake J. Harris]

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

A mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video-game industry. In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video-game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who knew nothing about video games and everything about fighting uphill battles.
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Publisher's Summary

A mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video-game industry.

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video-game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who knew nothing about video games and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat, and bold ideas of his renegade employees, completely transformed Sega and led to a ruthless, David-and-Goliath showdown with Nintendo. Little did he realize that Sega's success would create many new enemies and, most important, make Nintendo stronger than ever.

The battle was vicious, relentless, and highly profitable, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and school yards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-holds-barred conflict that pitted brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the United States against Japan.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the tale of how Tom Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punch line into a market leader. Blake J. Harris brings into focus the warriors, the strategies, and the battles and explores how they transformed popular culture forever. Ultimately, Console Wars is the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, give birth to a $60 billion industry.

©2014 Blake J. Harris (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (305 )
5 star
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4.5 (293 )
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3 star
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2 star
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  •  
    David Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 06-24-14
    David Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 06-24-14 Member Since 2007
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    "90% Fiction"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book is for someone looking for a great story, not a factual recounting of events.


    What was most disappointing about Blake J. Harris’s story?

    The author was constantly trying to sensationalize every interaction. Sega Employees = Top Gun Characters; Nintendo Employees = Blind Japanese Corporate Loving Caricatures


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes... the story.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. So much dramatization of obviously mundane events.


    Any additional comments?

    The author very loosely bases this book on facts. The story was painful to listen to. It is kind of like how Fox News treats political debates.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian 05-19-14
    Brian 05-19-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Must read for anyone that owned a SNES or Genesis"
    Any additional comments?

    I don't think I knew anyone who owned a Genesis at the time so this definitely puts a different perspective on things with it's Sega-centric view on the Super NES vs Genesis battle. Incredibly interesting and informative. Really worth a read if you have any fondness for video games from that era or today.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil Valdosta, Gabon 07-09-14
    Neil Valdosta, Gabon 07-09-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A must listen for any veteran of the 16-bit war"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Console Wars to be better than the print version?

    never read the print version but the narrator was good


    What did you like best about this story?

    it's fairly comprehensive. the author clearly did his research and uncovered things i hadn't heard before. Many of the events and certainly the outcomes were familiar to me, but the behind the scenes dramas were not, and hearing the entire story with proper context to Sony. Sega and Nintendo and all the characters involved was eye opening and riveting.

    My only gripe is NEC story was barely mentioned in this book. It was as if they didn't exist. I get that they never had much traction. but even the book mentions that they were seen as the first real credible threat to Nintendo

    Also, many of the great Sega innovations mentioned, were first launched by NEC ( 16-bit system, CD add ons, 16 bit color handheld- which blew away the game gear). I guess from a story perspective it makes for less of stark contrast mentioning NEX, but as a person who got a genesis in 1989. I can tell you that as a kid, i had to make a choice between the system with Altered Beast, or Keith Courage. Sega won that day, but I eventually got a TG16 express and the home console, and really thought NEC made some awesome hardware, but never got the third party support it needed to be a credible threat.


    Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favorite?

    Tom K. the OG from Sega was the true star of this story


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Al Nilsen's exit from Sega


    Any additional comments?

    Parts of this story feel over-dramatized, but I give the writer credit for making this story come to life, and keeping the action going.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay Friedman Dallas, TX United States 06-24-14
    Jay Friedman Dallas, TX United States 06-24-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Wayyyyyyy toooooo long."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The stories are good. The behind-the-scenes stuff is interesting. But I quit after 13 hours. This 20 hour book could have EASILY been 8 hours and exceptional. I love this industry and play games myself. After a while, it just became tedious. I don't need to know EVERY line of every conversation at every cocktail party or meeting.


    What other book might you compare Console Wars to and why?

    Where the Suckers Moon by Randall Rothenberg. Another behind the scenes look at an industry from a journalist perspective.


    Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Nope.


    Could you see Console Wars being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Yes I can. not sure on the stars.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rutledge D. 06-20-14
    Rutledge D. 06-20-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Must read for gaming enthusiasts"
    What made the experience of listening to Console Wars the most enjoyable?

    As a gaming enthusiast who can't get enough news, editorials, and information about the gaming world, this book is a gem. From the behind the scenes looks at both Sega and Nintendo in the late 80's and early-mid 90's, this audiobook brings the conflict that redefined everything about gaming to life.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I didn't realize just how much the conflict between Sega and Nintedo redefined the gaming industry. There's a chance that without them, some of the things we are used to in this day and age wouldn't even be here.


    What does Fred Berman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Between the voices he used for each person, and the enthusiasm he put into his reading of the book, listening to it on audible brought it to life. I'll be re-reading on Kindle, too - but this will be my go-to audio book.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were just so many. Between the story of how "Sonic Tuesday" came to be, the story of Kalinske and the young girl at the fundraiser, and the interactions between Sega of America's executives, there's too many to choose from.


    Any additional comments?

    To anyone wondering if this book is worth the 20 hours, I would highly recommend it over any other game-related book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audio 06-11-14
    Audio 06-11-14 Member Since 2011
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    "The real story of the Nintendo vs. Sega battle"
    What did you love best about Console Wars?

    This book went through such detail about both companies that it would have been off-putting if it wasn't such interesting stuff. The "cast" of characters keep your attention, even when it delves into personal details to really give a full portrait. It is a long book, but plays through so quickly you really don't feel it. I've listened to books that were half as long in the same corporate story genre and been ready for them to be over by the end, but this was such a fascinating topic and the great pace just kept me wanting more.


    What other book might you compare Console Wars to and why?

    A lot like "The Ultimate History of Videogames", about the same length, but instead of covering the entire history this book expands upon what is likely the most influential era Video Games have had thus far: the 16-bit "war" between Nintendo's SNES and SEGA's Genesis.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Just about anything from the boardroom or electronics shows was so impeccably researched that you felt like you were there, it's difficult to pick a favorite. That said, I think some of the preliminary meetings over Sonic's invention/evolution were probably the most humorous (and there is a lot of great humor in the book).


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Mario vs. Sonic :) Don't know how this would work so much as a film - non-fiction corporate drama, though the main "character" who previously worked with Mattel and then moved on to Sega and shepherded the successes of Genesis might have an interesting life story just himself.


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommend this book to anyone who lived through it, or, to those too young to have, so they can understand why people are so enamored with the 8bit/16bit era, even today. This was the point where home consoles really were able to compete with arcade machines, Nintendo was the ruler of the roost after the success of NES - and this is a great "little engine that could" story about SEGA. Granted, in today's environment where SEGA basically makes software for Nintendo and no longer produces hardware, this may seem quint or even unnecessary - but it's really important history to understand the games industry today.

    Sides aren't taken (though more time is spent with SEGA, simply because it was more interesting and lesser told), so no matter what you were/are a fan of - or, like most of us, loved them both - it's amazing watching each company win and lose, both making brilliant decisions, and then big pratfalls they should have seen coming. It would be almost epic if it didn't mostly take place in business meetings.

    The narrator is very good, as well - doing character voices in such a way as to differentiate but not distract. I would definitely like to hear more from him.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney Florida 05-19-14
    Rodney Florida 05-19-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book"

    If you're at all interested in the subject I highly recommend the book, it's really that simple.

    This book is a great look into what was happening at Sega during the time that Genesis became the #1 console in the US - but that didn't happen right away, it took a few years. When I was a kid I read all the video game magazines and have a very clear memeber of what happened and when, but I still learned a ton from reading this book. For example I had no idea that Sega of America was so close to collapse in those early days. For me and my friends we all thought Sega was a mainstay, equal with Nintendo. However this book presents the story in a very different perspective.

    The book is a great listen, although it's long it moves at a good pace. Also the reader does a great job.

    Positives: Presents mostly the Sega side of the console war, shows how they came into power and the mistakes that cost it when they moved to the 32bit generation. Very entertaining and (mostly) a great history lesson. The writer is very talented in terms of being able to tell an interesting story, even if you didn't care about the subject you'd still probably enjoy the book due to the authors efforts.

    Negatives: The timelines near the beginning of the book seem to not always align with how I remember things - lots of stuff happened in a short time and sometimes the author presents minor things out of order, but then revisits it later to clear it up. If you don't know any better this probably works well and keeps the story moving. There are also some minor issues with the games, for example at one point the author states at the time of sponsoring an LPGA event that Sega didn't have any golf games, but they did as Arnold Palmer Golf was a launch title on the unit. Also when talking about Mode 7 on the SNES the author says it was the first game to use that ability, again that is not correct, F-Zero, a launch title for the SNES was the first to use Mode 7. Minor issues, but I'm surprised in such a well researched book those got past the editors. Also while the reader does a great job overall sometimes his male voices sound quite feminine. I understand the idea of using different voices as it helps you know when the book is quoting someone and helps you keep track of who speaking and it's a minor issue, but there were times that I thought it was a woman speaking only to find out it was a man. Again, a minor issue.

    One last negative. The author extensively "quotes" people in the book - however I have a very hard time believing most of these quotes are actual quotes and not just lines made-up to advance the story. While I'm sure the "quotes" are educated guesses based on interviews of the subjects there's just no way people would be able to clearly remember exactly what they said 20+ years ago on some many minor issues. Normally for history books I'd really ding any book that I felt was making up quotes, but here I think it's for the best since this isn't an in depth history book of a subject like a world war. Also since most, if not all, of the people in this book are very much alive, I'd assume the author did his due diligence and while the quotes may not be exact, I'd assume they're close enough.

    Anyways note that I gave the book 5 stars overall so don't dwell on the negatives. This is a great, entertaining book and I highly recommend it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dyson 07-09-14
    Dyson 07-09-14
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    "Stop voting this up as fans of consoles."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This book is a poorly acted story with fictional scenes and over the top accents. It was like listening to a poorly executed cheap midday movie script that had high potential.


    What could Blake J. Harris have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    If the story was cut down by about 8hrs and the actual history told, it would be more interesting and less cringe worthy.


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Of mArc Canada 06-20-14
    Jean Of mArc Canada 06-20-14 Member Since 2010
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    "WOW!"

    This is easily one of the most interesting, exciting and readable pieces of literature about video games I've ever read. Wonderfully told in a novel format, rather than a fact-by-fact recounting of historical events, Blake J. Harris brings you on a while ride as Sega rises to the challenge of taking on Nintendo. The level of detail included, the diversity of real people involved, and the conflict that actually took place could not have been written in a more engaging way.

    Not only that, but Fred Berman does an excellent job at delivering every single line, and distinguishing every major player with a distinct tone of voice.

    If you have any interest in books related to video games, or even business in general, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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